The Unspoken Name by A K Larkwood

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The Unspoken Name by A K Larkwood

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Wilson
Reviewed by Ruth Wilson
Summary: Saved from being a human sacrifice at fourteen, Csorwe finds a new master to serve and a rich new universe of worlds to discover, but betrayal and death haunt her as the gods start to wake up. This is a rich, powerful story of loyalty and betrayal, mortality and gods, ingenuity and magic. Csorwe never knows who to trust or when her god might finally call her back.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: February 2020
Publisher: Tor Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1250238900

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What does it mean to betray someone? What if that someone is a god? Csorwe has been raised knowing that she would be sacrificed to her god on her fourteenth birthday, yet when the opportunity arises, she chooses to abandon everything she knows and flee with her life. Who can blame her? Her god's reach is limited and Csorwe intends to stay far beyond it, yet fate is a funny thing and when circumstances bring her back within the reach of her god Csorwe learns that her god remembers her, and blames her very much indeed.

The only negative I found with The Unspoken Name was that it took a while to get to the meat of the plot, the first part is establishing Csorwe as a character and it is not until part two that the plot really starts to unfold. It is worth waiting for, however, and although the storyline of the first part has little bearing beyond background and setting up characters, it does help later in the storyline when the reader has eight years' worth of character history rather than just the few weeks the plot is set in. In this early time, the reader gets a better understanding of other characters, other worlds and the range of Csorwe's new capabilities, and how hard she worked to achieve them. It would have seemed ridiculous if Csorwe had popped up eight years later, multilingual, a gifted assassin, master thief and second-in-command, but, by the time the plot really gets going, the reader is nearly a quarter of the way through the book.

One of the things I loved about the story is the theme of betrayal. From the very beginning, Csorwe struggles with her own betrayal of The Unspoken One, but she is not the only one. There are no "good guys" and "bad guys" within this plot, each character is acting to serve their own ends, as they require at that moment in time and different characters ally themselves with different groups depending on their own desires. Csorwe has a very rigid sense of loyalty to her master and finds this difficult, this notion of anything goes to get the desired result and through the story the reader sees her tested, how far will she go to achieve what she wants. As the plot develops, she starts to think about other forms of loyalty, loyalty to oneself, to those you care about, and the right say no to those you are loyal to.

There are many wonderful characters in this book, but I cannot go into any detail because it would totally spoil the plot. From the very beginning of the novel, the plot is created in such a way that characters pop back up who were assumed to be dead, or unimportant, or run away. To name any as particular, or to bring attention to any, would spoil the plot, so I can only focus on the main character of Csorwe, who I can mention without spoilers. Csorwe is a great central character, mainly because she has such poor people skills. Having been raised in a cult she had very few social skills, then she was trained as an assassin and thief, so not exactly skills that make you friendly and approachable. She is, however, strong and capable; she keeps her head in the most deadly of situations and is utterly formidable. She is offset against other characters who are more cunning, or sneaky, or simply more intelligent than her. Csorwe is used to being wielded as a weapon and being told what to do, whereas other characters outfox her by being better at planning, or manipulation.

The Unspoken Name is a book with rich characters, vast worlds, and towering gods. It builds slowly, gathering pace, and as a reader, it is unclear who to trust, where to go, what will happen next. The reader is willing Csorwe to be successful, to shake off the shackles of her past, but she is still learning the lessons of the gods. I would heartily recommend this book to any fantasy fan, or for another character driven story, you could try Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo.

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